What’s the saying? ‘It ain’t braggin if you back it up’.
Well ‘Medieval Reefer Music’ pedlars Groan definitely have an air of cockiness about them; Pioneering the one band genre of ‘Party Stoner’ rock you get the feeling that if they are left alone in a room long enough the band would start a party on their own, and it would be the best party no one was invited to.
Having formed in 2009 and released two full length albums, a live album and a split EP the band are back with the short sharp shock of ‘Ride The Snake‘, something of a life motto for the band and a delicious collision of NWOBHM area trad metal and bone crushing Doom heaviness. The English hailing rockers have mashed up a crazy cocktail of Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Church of Misery and even a dash of Hair Metal, infused with a sense of irony and humour that is frequently lacking from the Po-faced heavy music scene; add in the hazy influence of a 70’s psychedelic free house party and Groan could actually have penned some of the best party music ever.
The first of the five tracks on offer, for whatever you want to pay on their band camp page I should add, is the towering ‘Women Of Doom‘, an ode to Countess Bathory and other notorious women from fiction and history. Here the heroic epic story telling of trad metal meets the stripped down muscle of stoner rock as majestic riffs collide with the powerful rhythm section to give you both head banging grooves that will leave you dizzy and intelligent dynamic lead work.
Over the top of this vocalist Andreas Mazzereth commands the show with Dio-esque theatricality, using whispered, almost growled vocals and then stratospheric notes helping to immerse the listener in the story. At times it is so overblown it teeters on the brink of the ridiculous, but the band manage to check themselves from disappearing up their own arse by keeping the whole thing fun and captivating.
This philosophy permeates the record, as second track ‘Drug Lord‘ wades in with an up tempo cocky swagger that seems to say to the listener, ‘we know we make sounding this good so easy’ as they get locked into a serious groove, driven by Zel Kaute’s tight driving drums, that for all the irony heaped onto the lyrics is just pure entertainment.
Rather than a one off flash in the pan, this approach runs throughout ‘Ride The Snake‘ and makes it all the more worthwhile. There is a distinct attitude of having a good time, all the time and every song has a hugely catchy element that seeps into your brain, be it the nice vocal interplay and simple chanting gang chorus of ‘Drug Lord‘ or the anthemic shout of ‘Slice Of That Vibe‘.
For all their tongue in cheek attitude Groan are a band with some serious talent. The high octane riffing and dexterous guitar work spread over the EP courtesy of Mike Pilat and Jimmy Beedham helps transform a good idea into a great one, from the big chugging second half of ‘Blessed Is The Blade’, which evokes the Viking Raid the story is about, to the great lead work and Leigh Jones’s funky bass interplay on the epic closing track ‘Citadel Of Chaos’, the band have the chops to back up that swagger. On top of that they have their secret weapon in their vocalist Mazzereth whose impressive vocal range and bug eyed conviction stands legs akimbo, arms heroically aloft over each track like the continued spirit of Cathedral mainman Lee Dorian delivering the lyrics with deadpan certainty.
Some bands are incredibly talented and some are entertaining. Groan mange to be both and in a scene that can take itself far too seriously they are a timely reminder that music is a cathartic release and this takes many forms.
‘Ride The Snake‘ might not change your world, but if this doesn’t make you chug a beer, roll a fat one and bang your head with a big smile on your face then you ought to remember to let your hair down and have a laugh occasionally.
Ride the snake man, ride the snake.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden